Maritza Ruiz-Kim

Artist, San Francisco Bay Area

The Family I Joined

What was it like to be her, my mother-in-law in the Bay Area in the seventies? I know there were not many Asians out here in Contra Costa County back then. Not really. To be fresh from Korea, married to a man she didn’t know all that well, and starting a family with two boys. She had no idea her boys would grow up to be so Americanized, her oldest barely speaking Korean and her younger one not getting married anytime soon. And then she gets a daughter-in-law who not only is not Korean, but isn’t a White American either, and once she got over that… well, we are still just so different.

There are times our differences have seemed to be deep canyons that kept us so far apart that no amount of trying could bring us together. There was a short period after my engagement to GK that was so hard for both of us. She must have been so afraid of losing him forever. She had no idea how much family is important to me, or that GK would depend on my urging of him so that we could all spend time together. It was after Enn was born that our relationship was tried the most. She went back to her ways of doing things, and I was just not myself post-partum. I went cold when she came over, and resented her constant criticism advice.

A few more years under our belts have softened us both. Right now, she is in Seoul visiting GK’s Halmoni (grandmother) on his dad’s side. She’s sick and not getting better. We’d hoped to visit her with both our boys, whom she’s never met, before she was too far gone to know who GK was anymore. Now it seems we are missing out on that chance. And with our adoption process continuing, I am not sure that we can go before we have a finalized adoption at all.

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